Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Milking Curve part 2

Here we are in the barn, and it's time for Jason to put the chain on Violet's collar to discourage any changes of mind. It's a tense moment. It's a point which Violet can make difficult with a pushy toss of her head. If Clover wanders from sight, Violet will turn to see where she's gone inside the 20x15 space, and it's very nice if Clover has not actually wandered directly behind her, because Violet will want to turn around and see and then we're kind of back to square one in a 20x15 space with an 800-pound anxious mother. 20x15 can feel oppressively small when you have an electric fence behind you and a cow with her horns down in front of you.

So, once Violet is on the chain and Clover has agreed to stay in roughly one corner Violet can see easily, Jason begins to croon to her and stroke her jaw. She loves for her jaw to be petted; we figure all that chewing must getting tiring, even if you're built for it.

While Jason soothes the dear lady, I use the warm water to clean each teat (there are four on a cow's udder), and I use a clean rag to dry off the water. One thing I've learned is to leave the milk pail out of the cow's reach because if she can reach it, she will stick her nose in it. She has to check out everything, and her investigations do not leave the bucket quite as clean as I like.

Once her udder is clean one of two things happen. If Violet has been in the barn, she has not pooped. She doesn't seem to prefer to poop in the barn, but we do not prefer for her and Clover to run out of the barn for her constitutional because the chase is much more difficult than the poop removal. So, she poops sometime during the first three minutes of the chore time, and she pees shortly thereafter. We know this now. I do not sit down with my clean bucket to milk her until she has done her business.

The other thing that could happen is she could have pooped and peed while we were leading her to the barn and corralling Clover. In that case, I can sit right down to milk her.

It's pretty easy to milk a cow and pretty freaking hard, too. As I sit there, hands and forearms burning with the effort, it's amazing to see this milk pour out of this cow who's just standing there. And it just keeps coming and coming, until I'm ready to cry uncle, because my arms are so tired. Fortunately, only a week into our milking adventures, my arms are definitely stronger and my technique is definitely improving.

While we're milking, Violet stands pretty still with Jason acting as her stanchion. She usually moves just enough that I have to put one knee or another into the puddle of pee or right on a stone. There is some shifting, but she is remarkably tolerant, sidestepping the bucket and keeping one foot kind of back and out of the way. If Clover gets up, she moos softly to her, which I think is cow for, "Get your butt back into that bed!"

When I'm finished, there is a scramble. I have to take out the milk, go get the second carrot (a treat for being such a good cow), wipe down her udder and put a little marigold ointment on. Jason then feeds her the carrot and unfastens the chain. We bow out of the barn, leaving them in, while we freshen the water and check on the chickens. Then we open the barn, but they mostly choose to stay inside for awhile.

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